We held our breath when we asked readers to "tell us where to go." In so doing, we took the risk of opening the door to rude comments and -- perhaps worse -- being ignored. But we were pleasantly surprised on both counts. Not only did people hold their tongues (and pens), but they also came up with a great list of places they hold dear. We sifted and sorted and came up with six that we checked out and six more we considered the runners-up. But we also wanted to show the range of the submissions, so we have included the following list, culled from our e-mail.
Olympic Training Center, Chula Vista. Submitted by Patricia Blessing Rivera, who writes that it's "an overlooked and missed opportunity. A tour follows a historical film on the Olympics, usually led by an athlete in residence or docent. You also can meet athletes who are working in the gift shop, and you might see athletes training for a variety of events."
Glendeven Inn, Mendocino. Submitted by Patty O'Sullivan, who writes that it's "the most romantic getaway in California. We had gorgeous views of the coast and a short walk to Mendocino Headlands Park, great food (featuring a truly excellent in-room breakfast), a lovely room with luxurious details (bedding, fireplace, robes, etc.) If you need a real break from the ordinary, and Zen-like relaxation, this is the place."
Lark Camp, Mendocino Woodlands State Park. Submitted by Claudia Kriva, who writes that it's a "nontraditional vacation. Eight days of old-world music, dance from countries around the world and wonderful food. It takes one back in time and allows much merriment, for there is no need for phones, computers or any other 'device' to pull you away."
Red Rock Canyon State Park, near Cantil. Submitted by Theodore Benson, who writes, "This is a hidden jewel in the desert. The sandstone is breathtaking, especially during the sunrise and sunset, as you are surrounded by it on all sides. It looks good enough to eat, with its red, yellow and tan colors, layered like a cake."
North Coast Village, Oceanside. Submitted by Nancy Barna, who writes that it's the "best-kept secret in Southern California. Right on the beach, a tropical complex, pools, hot tubs."
Death Valley National Park. Submitted by Jo Ann Roche, who writes, "Go with an open mind." Also suggested by Jo Phan, who writes, "The beauty of the place is awe-inspiring."
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Submitted by Ellen Stevens, who writes that it's "a great place to take children and family."
Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach. Submitted by Katie Schinnerer, who writes, "Everything about this place is magical."
Alpenhorn Bed & Breakfast, Big Bear Lake. Submitted by Jan Peverill, who writes, "The inn is like coming home. You are always made welcome by the staff."
Bike ride on Catalina Island. Submitted by Ray McConn, who writes that it's "a remote spot, yet you can see L.A."
The Orchid Inn, Santa Barbara. Submitted by Ali Tolan, who writes, "My favorite bed-and-breakfast in California with a relaxing atmosphere and wonderful amenities." Also by Jill Sverdrup, who calls it a "perfect getaway from L.A. life."
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. Submitted by Pat Eisenberg, who writes, "Everything is in your backyard . . . beach, fitness, sun and sand, volleyball, quiet strolls on the boardwalk. Inside is luxury at its finest."
Little River Inn, Mendocino Coast. Submitted by Gayl Biondi, who writes, "The setting is spectacular. Room 134 has a lovely balcony with rocking chairs and an ever-changing view of the coastline."
Central Coast of California. Submitted by John Pawlicki, who writes, "The Central Coast area, around San Luis Obispo generally, has a very nice coastline, lovely rolling hills and the coastal mountain range, excellent world-class wineries and lots of activities."
Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite National Park. Submitted by Karen Winn, who writes, "What could be better than hiking in the natural beauty that is Yosemite all day and then coming back to a luxury hotel, set amid all that beauty?"
Yosemite National Park. Submitted by Julia Halperin, who writes, "So close and so incredible."Redwood National Park, Crescent City. Submitted by Grant Roden, who writes that it has "vast uncrowded beaches and amazing rain forest, uncrowded trails and beaches. Cheap restaurants and great activities . . . We saw lots of elk (right outside our cabin) eagles, huge redwoods, a black bear and many wildflowers."
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Submitted by Linda Fleischman , who writes, "Definitely a place to be at peace with the world. Majestic, huge redwood trees. Meadows. Many easy trails as well as challenging ones. There is a wonderful river through the campground and a hike to a waterfall as well as hikes among the tall trees and in the meadows."
Lake Siskiyou. Submitted by Michael Everett, who writes, "I think it's California's best-kept secret. In its waters you can see snowcapped Mt. Shasta reflected. Serious swimmers will love it, but everyone else I see there seems to love it too."
Santa Barbara. Submitted by Karen Johanson, who writes "Coming from the desert, we find the weather usually moderate. We stay on Bath Street by the beach. You don't have to use your car. There's a trolley that will take you uptown, or it is a nice walk. Also you'll find bikes to rent and great dining all over town."
Sausalito. Submitted by Ron Marshall, who writes, "Great views of downtown San Francisco and Alcatraz and Angel Island. Wake up to spectacular views and sounds of the bay. Charming, walkable downtown. Hop on a ferry, and in 30 minutes you are in a big city."
Montage Resort & Spa, Laguna Beach. Submitted by Dan Morin, who writes, "This resort is . . . by far, the most incredible place I've stayed on the West Coast. The service, the ambience, the food etc. are all truly superlative. To me, a must visit."
Route 66, from Chicago to L.A. Submitted by Scott Piotrowski, who writes, "The international appeal of Route 66 is something that is lost on most Angelenos, despite the historical significance of the highway and the cultural ties that it binds to many of Los Angeles' communities."
Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt County. Submitted by Julia Lamb, who writes, "To be surrounded by these magnificent giants with just the sun's rays piercing the towering canopy of branches is very much like being in a cathedral. The silence is profound, and you have a real sense of your relative insignificance in this universe."
Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, Santa Ynez Valley. Submitted by Kevin Cartwright, who writes, "It's a 10,000-acre country club-dude ranch within an easy drive of Los Angeles. I don't think people know something like this exists in California."
Silver Lake Resort, Mono County. Submitted by Maureen Johnson, who writes, "This was the best family vacation spot for us when our three children were young. It is just a great time for a family. We went to Mammoth, Devil's Postpile, Yosemite, Bodie, Mono Lake and went horseback riding, and hiking. The kids learned to fish and sit very still as deer came up to our cabin."
Loews Coronado Bay Resort. Submitted by Maren Steiner, who writes, "I have traveled to over 20 countries and seen some of the most amazing sights that this planet has to offer. There is nothing in this world better than enjoying a fresh breakfast on the patio of the Market Café and watching the yachts in the marina. After breakfast you can take a leisurely walk along the waterfront to the private beach. This must be what heaven is like."
Mt. Baldy, San Gabriel Mountains. Submitted by Kay Murphy, who writes, "Baldy is one of the best-kept secrets in the Inland Empire. I talk to people on the trails up here all the time who live in L.A. and drive out to hike (because it takes 30 or 40 minutes to get here early on a Saturday morning, and you can hike among oak, pine and incense cedar for hours . . . or days.) . . . And in the summer, when it's 100 degrees in the valley, it's 80 in Mt. Baldy Village."
Camp GetAway, Angelus Oaks, San Bernardino Mountains. Submitted by Diane Scalia, who writes,"Grown-up camp for women -- no men, no chores, no stress, no children, no to-do lists, no carpools, no demands, just a lot of fun."
Pacific Coast Highway. Submitted by Mikki Mc Aninch, who writes, "It's just a nice place to take a leisurely drive. It is a beautiful, scenic drive, with the ocean on one side, mountains on the other. I love the ocean breeze and the smell of it. If there was a way to stop the Santa Ana winds, the fires and mudslides and fix the early morning smog, it would be perfect all the time."
Elsewhere in the West
Crested Butte, Colo. Submitted by Cherie Hart, who writes, "The natural beauty of this mountain-ringed valley is unparalleled. At first you think you're in Switzerland, until you arrive in the quaint historic 'downtown,' which is very definitely Western."
Breckenridge, Colo. Submitted by Kim Peticolas, who writes, "It is a bustling town during the ski season, [but] during the summer months it turns into a cultural spot with a small-town feel."
Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, Gallatin Gateway, Mont. Submitted by Jeff Rieger, who writes, "It is a true unspoiled slice of the American West: spectacular scenery, warm, family-friendly hospitality, historic lodge, sure-footed, mountain-savvy, beautifully trained Appaloosa horses and guides who take guests twice daily on fabulous mountain backwoods trail ride adventures (you are sure to see tons of wildlife), central to the best fishing in the Lower 48s, 30 minutes from Yellowstone Park, yet totally secluded and uncrowded."
Signal Mountain Lodge, Grand Teton National Park, Wyo. Submitted by Don Goodman, who writes, "The lodge itself, built along the banks of Jackson Lake, is a great location. The view [in the national park] is spectacular. Unlimited adventure awaits all visitors."
Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Submitted by Thomas Lindberg, who writes, "Canyonlands has to be one of the most other-worldly places on Earth. Vast red rock mesas and buttes incised by the Colorado and Green rivers provide a landscape reminiscent of some Martian dreamscape." Also recommended by Ralph Velasco, who writes, "As a photographer, I find the photo opportunities are endless at Canyonlands. Throughout the day the light changes dramatically as it bathes the surfaces of the canyon walls and floor with otherworldly colors."
Zion National Park, especially Kolob Canyons section and Middle Fork of Taylor Creek. Submitted by Jean Collinsworth, who says it's a trip full of "peace, beauty, inspiration." Also suggested by Jan Findlay, who writes, "The serenity of the canyon, the way the light casts itself on the sculptured cliffs creates a unique view at all times of the day. Some of the hikes include narrow paths with chains and steep cliffs, offering a very thrilling experience."
Wasatch Mountain State Park Golf Course, Utah. Submitted by Lonnie Horn, who writes, "Great public links venue at a reasonable price. Spectacular fall foliage, scenic vistas and numerous sightings of deer, wild turkeys and elk."
Old Pahreah Town Site and canyons, Utah. Submitted by Gunnar Ostrand, who writes that he likes its history (it was founded in 1870 and abandoned about 60 years later) and its "beautiful colored canyons."
Las Vegas. Submitted by Bill Spitalnick, who writes, "Aside from the obvious lure of gambling, this locale has virtually anything and everything that would increase the typical person's heartbeat." White Sands National Monument, N.M. Submitted by Ginette Lamont, who writes, "Miles of gypsum as white as snow. You have to blink for a second to make sure this isn't snow."
Sedona, Ariz. Submitted by Jaan Torv, who writes, "The feeling of well-being and the spiritual presence of ancient Native American culture resonate. The views, walks, climate, color, air are second to none. If you seek a place to recharge, heal, slow down and be utterly thrilled by what the planet has to offer, Sedona has few peers."
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas. Submitted by Natale Michaud, who writes, "If you are able to hike, you will be amazed at the diverse ecosystems in this one area."
Punta Serena resort, Mexico. Submitted by Elizabeth Saghi, who writes, "About an hour's drive north of Manzanillo, it's an 'adult only' resort . . . The name Punta Serena says it all."
Bahía Colonet, Baja, Mexico. Submitted by George Heule, who writes, "It is like my secret place to escape to. There is currently no development other than limited flood-control measures. But this place is supposed to be a major logistical center in the near future."
Loreto Bay National Marine Park, Mexico. Submitted by Fred Grote, who writes, "In just four days on a sea kayak trip, we saw fin whales and dolphins up close from our camp and from our kayaks, we snorkeled every day and saw different fish each day, and we hiked to a different scenic overlook each day. I like to pack in lots of activity, and this guided trip supplied that for me."
Snake River, Idaho. Submitted by Jaan Torv, who writes, "A Snake River expedition is big adventure. It is a majestic journey through geologic time, pristine wilderness and furious bucking rapids; it requires a degree of fitness . . . and some bravery."
Southern Willamette Valley, Oregon. Submitted by Elizabeth Hays, who writes that the "setting is lovely, the tasting rooms uncrowded and most of all the wines are fantastic."
Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Ore. Submitted by Cathy Sweetser, who writes, "It's a wonderful festival and a great drive up the coast."
Run of the River Inn, Leavenworth, Wash. Submitted by Jan Wierzbicki, who writes, "The inn is a peaceful and restful place to stay in the Cascade Mountains, about two hours east of Seattle. Each room has an old-fashioned typewriter, and guests are encouraged to write poetry."
Rosario Resort & Spa, San Juan Islands, Wash. Submitted by Don Goodman, who writes, "The resort is adjacent to Moran State Park [which] provides great hiking (easy to moderate) and spectacular scenery. In the evenings, the resort's organ could be heard throughout the main house. The organist also plays a mean piano -- terrific. Sing, dance, listen. A romantic time."
Homer, Alaska. Submitted by Chakri Inampudi, who says the whale watching is terrific.
Goldbelt Hotel, Juneau, Alaska. Submitted by Patty Richmond, who writes, "A water-view room overlooks the harbor where the cruise ships dock. Out your hotel window, in addition to snow-covered mountains, there is always activity: cruise ships, Coast Guard vessels, float planes and bald eagles."
Odaray Plateau, British Columbia, Canada. Submitted by Stephen Chin, who writes, "I walked to the edge of the plateau and saw Lake O'Hara below, a jewel of transparent green lighted by the morning sun, the water so clear, its floor was visible. I spent two days there all alone in 'heaven.' "
God’s Pocket Diving Resort, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Submitted by Nancy Mertz, who writes, "Fantastic for easy sea kayaking in remote place with great variety of marine mammals (sea otters, seals, sea lions, humpback whales, minke whales, porpoises)."
Kaleialoha condo complex, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. Submitted by Nancy Nester, who says, "sea turtle, seals and dolphins seen daily."
Kauai. Submitted by Paul Keith Wandrey, who writes, "As soon as you arrive on Kauai there is 'decompression.' Beautiful, low-key beaches that go on forever. A family place."
Erie Canal, N.Y. Submitted by James Knight, who lives on the canal. He writes, "The canal features a bikeway on the former towpath, which allows the non-boating public to take advantage of the right of way. Thousands of cyclists, from round the world, travel through New York's historic heartland every day."
Knoxville, Tenn. Submitted by Ramaah Sadasivam, who writes, "I grew up in Knoxville, and as I've grown older, I've realized how unique Knoxville is. I think other people may not know that Knoxville is on the map, since it typically dwarfs Memphis and Nashville when people think of cities in Tennessee. Knoxville is right on the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and you're just a few minutes away from hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities. It's a great city, and ya'll should check it out."
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wis. Submitted by Kristin Liphart, who writes, "To visit in the summer or fall is to find one of the most spectacular places on this Earth!"
Key West, Fla. Submitted by Gayle Montgomery, who writes, "It's Disneyland for adults. One of the most gorgeous places on the planet, rich with history, loaded with charm."
Olomouc, Czech Republic. Submitted by Chris Gripko, who writes, "It still retains its old-style feel. It's a beautiful city."
El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Submitted by Alex Ucci, who writes, "It is a hike, a tough one at that, through the mountains across Northern Spain and has been used regularly by pilgrims. You travel through many charming towns . . . Along the way, you drink the best wine Spain has to offer, eat some of the most delicious food you can find in Europe and engage with your fellow pilgrims in a bond unlike any other I have ever experienced."
Segovia, Spain. Submitted by Diana Martin, who writes of her hometown, "It is a medieval town in the center of Spain and is just so charming, relaxing and full of history that no one can dislike it. It really is beautiful, and you can eat so well, and its beauty and gastronomy are so different from the U.S."
Island of Brac, Croatia. Submitted by Alvah Dickerson, who writes, "Natural charm, hospitality, great rates with numerous local villas, great beaches, historically and culturally interesting, perfect place for rest and relaxation."
Tigaki Beach, Kos Island, Greece. Submitted by Andrea Preziotti, who writes, "The beach is fantastic . . . the water refreshing, and one could walk fairly far out into the water without drowning."
Bimini, Bahamas. Submitted by Robert Fairchild, who calls it "the best place on Earth," adding, "Very few cars, extremely small island . . . [and] everyone knows each other."
Rangiroa, French Polynesia. Submitted by Liz Coughlin, who writes, "You feel like you are on the edge of civilization, far, far away from everything human. Stunningly surreal and supremely remote. . . .Totally awesome."
Arizona Beachside Resort, Olongapo City, Philippines. Submitted by Mark Kavanaugh, who writes, "This resort is named in honor of the USS Arizona that was sunk at Pearl Harbor. The area is filled with many fond memories for military members that were stationed at the nearby former U.S. Naval base."
Brazil, submitted by Gwen Burton, who writes, "They are using sugar cane to fuel their vehicles and are now energy independent."
Falkland Islands, off the coast of Argentina. Submitted by Deb Elliot, who writes, "Beautiful, obscure area near Argentina which Margaret Thatcher was willing to fight for to protect British citizens in the 1980s. Small, magical area of the world."